Get to Know a Budget Deal: What the New Budget Deal Means and How Does it Impact Research?

As we reported in the House Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) Defense appropriations post, the Trump Administration and Congressional leaders were homing in on a budget agreement. Well, it sounds like a deal has been struck. This would provide top-line numbers for both defense and non-defense appropriations spending for FY20 and FY21, in addition to lifting the debt ceiling. All this would mean the Senate’s long delayed work on FY20 appropriations bills could start to move forward. Let’s get into the details.

The deal would set FY20 defense spending at $666.5 billion and non-defense spending at $621.5 billion; spending for FY21 would be set at $671.5 billion for defense and $626.5 billion for non-defense. Those non-defense numbers are not tremendously far off from the House Democrat “deemed” numbers of $631 billion for FY20 and $646 billion for FY21. Remember that Congressional Democrats are most concerned with non-defense spending keeping pace with any increases with defense spending, which is a priority for Congressional Republicans and the Administration. With the National Science Foundation and many of the other federal research agencies being in the non-defense side of the federal budget, increases there should translate into increases for research.

Two additional points of information: first, the deal would set a $2.5 billion exemption for the 2020 Census. This is good news because the Census sits in the same appropriations bill (ie: the same pot of money) as NSF, NIST, NASA, and NOAH; so, there is less likelihood of cuts to these accounts. Additionally, the budget deal includes $77.4 billion in offsets; however, those offsets sound to be pretty benign and mostly gimmicky.

What is not covered under this agreement? There is no guarantee that FY20 appropriations will be completed, so there is still that political fight to be had. And with Congressional Democrats and the Trump Administration being far apart on policy issues with regard to the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense, we can expect those bills to get dragged out (similar to last year). While there was an agreement to not include “poison pills or additional policy riders” in final appropriations bills, that’s likely to be skirted or outright not followed (after all, one person’s poison pill is another’s reasonable policy change). Additionally, the deal does have to be accepted by both caucus’s rank-and-file, which is not a foregone conclusion. Bottom line: there is still a long way to go before Fiscal Year 2020 is completed, but at least there’s a path forward. Keep checking back for new updates.